Sponsored by American Express and Nectar

How many loyalty cards do you have in your purse?

Go on, I’ll wait a minute while you have a count.

2,317?

Yes, I thought it might be about that.

Now have another look and tell me how many of them you use in a way that really maximises their value. Do you know all the best ways to collect points and how to get the most benefit from them?

Well no, me neither really.

Although I have a purse full of plastic, my relationship with loyalty programmes has generally been quite passive – just collecting points without thinking about how I could be using them most effectively. It reminds me a bit of a game I used to play with my friend Nicky when we must have been around 19 years old. We’d go to the pub, and we’d get all the cards from our wallets and compare them in a big square. I know, we were crazy. I think there was something about having lots of important looking cards that made us feel grown up.

I have been challenged by American Express® and Nectar to think about loyalty programmes differently. Your wallet full of cards could actually be working much harder for you, helping you to earn rewards through your everyday spending. If your next supermarket shop could help you to get a family meal out, well, that has to be a good thing doesn’t it? View Post

Follow:

Until about four hours ago, I thought I had my pension situation relatively sorted.

I’ve always signed up for work pension schemes, and when I went on maternity leave with Belle, aged 24, (me not Belle), I also set up a personal stakeholder pension plan, which I’ve been paying into ever since. I’ve recently had a bit of a pension spring clean, put everything into one big nice pot, and upped my personal contributions dramatically to £300 a month. My pension fund at the moment is worth about £60,000, which in my head is a massive amount of money.

So when Aviva challenged me to live on my predicted pension for a week, I thought it would be easy peasy.

Turns out that in the world of pensions, £60,000 is not a terribly large amount of money at all, as I discovered after doing a few sums on the Aviva Shape my Future tool.

Doing some realistic calculations about the sort of lifestyle I’d currently be able to afford on retirement has been a massive eye-opener. I’d always imagined that retirement would be a bit like having a day off work, but every single day. You know how sometimes you get a day off in the week with your partner, while the children are at school, so you go out somewhere nice for lunch, maybe have a mooch around some shops, or go for a stroll and a piece of cake at a local National Trust property? That’s what I imagine retirement will be like every day. Plus maybe a spot of light gardening, because obviously by the time I retire I will know all the Latin names for plants. (I don’t know how this happens, but older people always seem to know them, so I’m assuming it will just pop into my head at some point?)

Oh, and the odd cruise around the Norwegian fjords.

To give you an idea, I created a little mood board for my retirement. View Post

Follow:

Jon from The Money Shed has written quite a few posts for me. He’s written this one about matched betting, and another about different ways to make money online, working from home. I let him because, quite frankly, they get me a lot of traffic, plus they are actually useful if you want to earn some extra cash. Plus he hassles me until I do.

This is Jon:

The Money Shed

I tried to get him to take a picture with his dog – ‘people trust people with dogs’ – but you’ve just got his face. Still, he looks fairly normal doesn’t he? View Post

Follow:

July has been a stressful month for me.

My car is due for its MOT in July, and yet for the first 20 days of the month I did absolutely nothing about it. That’s a lie. About nine times a day I thought to myself ‘I really must check when the car is due for its MOT.’

Turns out you can just look it up on the DVLA website, but in my mind it was a gargantuan task that would involve sorting through masses of paperwork and trying to find last year’s certificate. Or, horror of horror, actually having to use the phone to call the garage and speak to a human being.

(I don’t like using the phone.)

Fortunately for me, on July 2oth I went to an event with Compare the Market, that involved me finding out when my car was due for its MOT!

I know right?! What are the chances? It’s true though. I was testing out a brand new product from Compare the Market, called Simples. It’s currently in beta, but I’m going to tell you a bit about it, and how you can sign up now and be one of the first to try it while it’s still in its testing stage. It’s genuinely a fantastic tool, so do read on. Plus, later in the post I’ll reveal whether or not my MOT turned out to be overdue.

DUM DUM DUM DUM!! View Post

Follow:

This week I’ve been undertaking a challenge. You know I love anything with a competitive element, so this was right up my street. Not that there really even was a competitive element – not against anyone other than myself anyway, but that’s enough for me! 

The idea behind the challenge, which was set for me by NoteMachine, was to see how spending habits have changed, and to what extent we now use card rather than cash, or vice versa. I must say that I’ve never really given much thought to how I spend money, unless I really want a sausage and onion bap from the little sandwich bar around the corner, who only take cash, and so I was interested to see how I got on.

Here’s a diary of my challenge…

Day one – cash

My challenge is to spend three days using only cash and three using only card, but it’s the first day and I’m still not sure which to do first. As I do with most of my serious life choices, I ask Twitter. Consensus seems to be that I should start with cash, as this will be the hardest, and I’m very pleased with this idea indeed, as it’s a Thursday – farmers’ market day in Taunton. The farmers’ market is about a two minute walk from my office, and I do quite like to treat myself to a teeny tiny Japanese chicken curry on a Thursday, and possibly a chocolate brownie. (If they are home made they are wholesome, and therefore terribly good for you.)

I have a momentary panic when I realise I had gone to work without card or cash, but Bee comes to meet me for lunch and saves the day:

So far so good, although there are a couple of things I notice just after one day of cash only; firstly, I took a lot of cash out, because I was afraid of not having it when I needed it. I don’t always carry a bag, and have a tendency to stuff money, old tissues and scraps of paper into my pockets, and then forget about them. I feel immediately like the potential for me to end up out of pocket is greater with cash, as it seems quite lucky that money might literally fall out of my pockets.  View Post

Follow: